At Last, My Big Break
Like the prodigal son, Chris decided to return home after things got tough in a foreign land, remorseful, and apologize to his aunt for going against her wishes. Fortunately, he was in for a wonderful surprise. In this final instalment of the three-part series, he finally gets a well-deserved break.
Each extra day Chris stayed in the UAE added to his overstay fine – 100 dirhams per day. Sadly for him, he couldn’t be allowed to travel back to Uganda without paying the 7000 dirhams he owed. This was money he didn’t have since even getting food was a struggle. Life had become too expensive for him. Eventually, his rent expired and with no money to pay for an extra night, he started to sleep over at his friends’ houses, one after another. He would spend a night or two at one place, then move on to another.
Those with landlords who would not allow them to share a room or have sleepovers, he would visit during the day just for a meal. Chris is an amiable person and had made so many friends that he had secretly made a schedule of sleepover rounds. Each one with sleepover space would have him an average of two days a month. For lunch invites, at least once a month.
He survived like this for quite some time, keeping his property under Jeremiah’s bed. He could not permanently share a bed with anyone because it would imply an increase in the rent charges and him contributing towards the payment. This was something he wasn’t in a position to do. So, this method helped him get accommodation and food without making his benefactors feel burdened. However, he couldn’t sustain this method for long as some of his friends relocated, while others got spouses so sleeping over became impossible.
Moreover, one of his friends wanted to balance the friendship by also visiting his home, which for obvious reasons wasn’t possible. It reached the point where Jeremiah’s house was the only place he could turn to. He would sneak in at dawn when Jeremiah was leaving for work so he could take a nap during the day without the landlord realizing it. On the days he had a “khaliwali job” the following day, he would sleep out on the streets.
Khaliwali jobs are part-time jobs done by overstayers. Some companies and individuals with less budget to spend on labour tend to take advantage of overstaying immigrants to get very cheap labour. Whenever such gigs appeared, Chris would grab the chance to earn some money and redeem himself from the fines. However, it would take quite some time to save the amount of money he needed.
When the landlord learned Chris was coming over every day, he gave Jeremiah a final warning that if he did it again he would be evicted. Now Chris did not even have access to a shower. Part-time work didn’t earn him enough money. If you rented a place from it, you would have to work for five years to collect 7000, without counting the amount owed for overstaying. It was like chasing his tail.
Having given it deep thought, he decided to seek deportation, go back home, apologize to his aunt and do whatever she wished. He reported himself to the police for overstaying hoping to be deported but surprisingly, he wasn’t arrested or extradited. He was told to go back to the streets or home, and they would come for him when they wanted. At times the police can be unpredictable. They won’t arrest you when you want or expect it, they will only do so at their convenience.
All the windows to leading a normal life were closed except for calling his aunt and telling her everything, which he did. She was disappointed that he had to wait that long to tell her. At this point, he needed 4,000 Dirhams to top up the money he had saved so far and pay the fines and ticket back home. He refers to his aunt as his “guardian angel” since she hastily got the money for him without any fuss. He cleared everything and booked a flight within two weeks.
Having overcome all the pressure and now relaxing on his last days in the UAE, he decided to check his emails. This was something he had not been able to do due to how demanding the past few months had been. One of the restaurants he had applied to online way back before he gave up had invited him for an interview. Since he had plenty of free time, he dressed smartly and headed there to do the interview just for fun and have lunch in a posh restaurant. To his surprise, the interviewer never asked him much.
He just asked him for his passport copy and gave him a job offer letter and contract. Chris wanted to say “I apologize, sir, I already made up my mind and have booked a ticket to go back home. My family is waiting for me.” But he would still be questioned about why he came for the interview in the first place. He finally decided to pretend that he was reading the contract and say, “I’m sorry sir the salary offer is too small for my expectations. I can’t take the job.”
This would help him come across as a professional with high standards. But as he read through it, the salary threw his plan into disarray. He was being offered a waiter’s position for $3800 a month, plus accommodation. This was the most attractive job offer he had received in the UAE. He signed right away and asked the manager when he was expected to start, which was in two to three days.
It was after closing the deal that he remembered he still had to figure out another way of breaking his aunt’s heart for the second time. He decided to send her a message telling her about the job offer, without mentioning he had already accepted it, to gauge her reaction. This time around, she shared his thoughts and urged him to accept the offer and compensate for the time and money he had lost. I mean, who would have rejected such a job offer after struggling for so long? He is now working and determined to make his dreams come true.